An enchanting cross between Georgette Heyer and Susanna Clarke, full of delights and surprises. Zen Cho unpins the edges of the canvas and throws them wide.
Sign. Me. Up! This book is pretty much guaranteed to be on my #Diversiverse reading list this year, once I get around to promoting #Diversiverse. (It will coincide with Banned Books Week, since so many books by POC are banned, so it's the last week of September, if you want to plan ahead.)
Anyway, after learning about Sorcerer to the Crown, I pretty much wanted to read everything else Zen Cho has written, and so I bought her short story collection, Spirits Abroad. And while I think some of the cultural references went over my head, I AM SO EXCITED to read Sorceror to the Crown because I loved so much about this collection of stories! What Aliette de Bodard did for me in science fiction - feminizing, globalizing it - Zen Cho is doing for me in fantasy.
The stories in Spirits Abroad cover a wide range of topics, from a vampire's first love to an old woman's remembrances of lost love, from an immigrant's desperation to fit in at school to a sister sprouting into a house, each and every one is fresh, original, and so full of wonderful depth.
I loved the way Cho infused every story with Malaysian folklore and history, and then helpfully provided author's notes for every story in which she explained the basis for the magical beings and events that took place. And it's not like all of her stories were set in Malaysia or some small village, either. Some of them revolve around a lion dance troupe-slash-ghost buster unit in the UK (and those stories are GREAT), and one is set on the moon. But the way Cho brings her culture into each story, even if it's just a bunch of kids who traveled to English boarding school with sriracha in their suitcases (YES, I totally have done that before myself!), is great. The dialect, the characters, the magical realism, it's all so different than anything I've read before, and I just loved everything about it. It truly is one of those instances where you get a peek behind the curtain at everything that a more diverse publishing world can provide to us, and it's such an exhilarating, exciting peek.
I don't think I have a favorite story. I would say that almost every story had truly funny bits - like the dragon who falls in love with a very practical woman in London, or the text messages two bystanders exchange while an old woman confronts her former lover in a very public space. Some of them were heartbreaking, like the story about a girl and her sister and the home they have made for themselves, and the one about a lonely girl who is willing to sacrifice everything for a wish. All of them speak to Cho's originality and depth of talent, and I am so excited to read more from her. I cannot wait for Sorceror to the Crown to come out (September 1st!). But until it's available, I highly encourage you to check this short story collection out. It's so fun and so great, and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.